Skip to content

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: the Bonaventure Hotel

What building most clearly signifies Los Angeles? In a built environment with few easily legible architectural icons, the Bonaventure Hotel has come to stand for the city as no other building does. Since opening in 1976, John C. Portman Jr.’s quintet of reflective cylindrical towers atop a stark concrete base has played in urban Los Angeles films not just an incidental if striking piece of background detail, but a piece of visual shorthand for Los Angeles (or its destruction), an ominous space for illicit dealings, a stop on or pathway for a chase, a convergence point for a final showdown, or even a part of completely different cities or realities. And like Los Angeles itself, filmmakers frequently exploit certain of the Bonaventure’s features, or even invent ones that don’t exist, while ignoring its other qualities entirely.

The video essays of “Los Angeles, the City in Cinema” examine the variety of Los Angeleses revealed in the films set there, both those new and old, mainstream and obscure, respectable and schlocky, appealing and unappealing — just like the city itself.